William “Billy” Cox (born October 18, 1941) is an American bassist, best known for performing with Jimi Hendrix. Cox is the only surviving member of Jimi Hendrix’s three main bands, including the original Experience lineup (which did not include Cox); he was in the Band of Gypsys and afterwards the Cry Of Love (a.k.a. Jimi Hendrix New Experience) trio. Cox was also in the short-lived Hendrix band Gypsy Sun and Rainbows (there are other surviving members from this group) which played Woodstock, prior to the Band of Gypsys formation. Cox continues to perform dates with the Band of Gypsys Experience and the Experience Hendrix Tour.
Born in Wheeling, West Virginia, Billy Cox was raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and attended Schenley High School. Cox met Jimi Hendrix when they were serving in the Army at Fort Campbell, Kentucky in 1961. While using the bathroom at Service Club #1 during a sudden rainstorm, he heard guitar playing inside. Impressed with what he heard, he introduced himself, told Hendrix he played bass, and they were jamming soon after. They became, and remained, fast friends. They left the military around the same time and they played clubs around Clarksville, Tennessee, finally moving to Nashville. They formed a group called the King Kasuals. They played at Nashville clubs, mostly the Del Morocco, and occasional outlying gigs in the southeast, once as far north as Indianapolis playing what was called the “Chitlin’ Circuit”. Cox and Hendrix played in the backing band for Marion James around this time. Hendrix eventually left Nashville, playing all over the US in the backing groups of several famous artists, most notably Little Richard and The Isley Brothers, until he was “discovered” by Chas Chandler in New York. Chandler took Hendrix to England (from which began Hendrix’s meteoric rise to fame), but before Hendrix left, he called Cox and asked him to join him. Cox (in his own words) “Only had three strings on my bass” and no money to travel to New York, so he thanked Hendrix and wished him well. From 1962 to 1968 Cox gained musical experience and developed his expertise. Cox played bass on the pioneering R&B television shows, Nashville’s “Night Train” and then the “The!!!! Beat” from Dallas, Texas, working closely with Hoss Allen and John Richbourg of WLAC Radio. Billy Cox has played behind many famous artists. He has either been a member of the house or touring band or recorded sessions for Sam Cooke, Slim Harpo, Joe Simon, Charlie Daniels, Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, Lou Rawls, Etta James, Jackie Wilson and Little Richard.
Band of Gypsys & The Jimi Hendrix New Experience (a.k.a. The Cry of Love Band)
In 1969, several months before bassist Noel Redding left the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Hendrix called his old friend Cox, who joined him in New York as his studio bassist. Following the break-up of the Experience, Cox became a member of Hendrix’s experimental group, tentatively titled Gypsy Sun and Rainbows. This group went on to play at Woodstock and two low-key New York gigs before being disbanded. Hendrix then formed another short-lived group with Cox and Buddy Miles, the Band of Gypsys. They recorded the eponymously titled live LP that he owed former manager Ed Chalpin as part of a legal settlement. Following their demise, Cox played a series of shows with Hendrix and Mitch Mitchell in the reformed New Experience, formerly called The Cry of Love. In addition to the Band of Gypsys release, Cox’s bass playing can be heard on such posthumously released Hendrix albums as South Saturn Delta, Live at Woodstock, Live at the Fillmore East, Nine to the Universe, and a reconstructed version of First Rays of the New Rising Sun, in addition to such home-videos as Live at the Isle of Wight 1970, Live at Woodstock, The Dick Cavett Show, Rainbow Bridge, and Jimi Hendrix.
On September 8, 2006, Cox mentioned in an interview on the KQRS-FM morning show that he can be heard playing bass on five of the first notes of Jimi Hendrix’s famous Woodstock “Star Spangled Banner”. The rendition was completely impromptu according to him. He said he thought to himself at the moment, “I realized we had not rehearsed this, I had better lay off.” He toured with Hendrix (with Mitch Mitchell on drums), usually billed as ‘the Jimi Hendrix Experience’, from 25 April until 6 September 1970 on the Cry of Love tour. Cox lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where he remains active in music, and acts as an ambassador for Jimi Hendrix, his music and philosophy.
After Hendrix’s death
In 1971, Cox released his album Nitro Function with Char Vinnedge (from Luv’d Ones) and Robert Tarrant and Jim Dant. Cox played with others, including the Charlie Daniels Band, as well as session work and live dates. Throughout the ’70s and ’80s, Cox would continue to be a part of Jimi’s music as posthumous releases continued to pour out.
In 1995, Cox along with Mitchell, Redding and Miles began participating in Hendrix tributes and tours. In 1999, Cox appeared on the late Bruce Cameron’s album, Midnight Daydream, that included other Hendrix alumni Mitchell and Miles along with Jack Bruce and others. Cox has also performed some dates along with Mitchell and guitarist Gary Serkin with a Hendrix-tribute outfit called the Gypsy Sun Experience.
Cox worked on First Rays of the New Rising Sun, Hendrix’s fourth studio album, which was cut off by Hendrix’s death. Cox has also been known to guest speak at University level music seminars. In this capacity he has been helpful to the aspiring musicians by spending time with them in discussion and demonstration sessions. This spirit of sharing and helping other musicians is similar to his former bandleader Hendrix’s vision of providing musicians with a no-pressure (including cost breaks if needed) recording environment in the now legendary Electric Lady studios located in Greenwich Village, NYC.
In 2004, Miles reunited yet again with Cox of the Band of Gypsys to re-record songs from the original live album of 1970 with guitarists Eric Gales, Kenny Olsen, Sheldon Reynolds, Andy Aledort and Gary Serkin. The album, titled The Band Of Gypsys Return, was released in 2006.
As of November 12, 2008, Cox is the only surviving member of both The Jimi Hendrix Experience and the Band Of Gypsys. On Monday, October 12, 2009, Cox was inducted into Musician’s Hall of Fame in ceremonies held at The Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville, Tennessee. He currently plays with the Experience Hendrix, a semi-regular touring Hendrix tribute band featuring top guitarists and former Hendrix collaborators. Billy’s solo album Last Gypsy Standing was released in 2009. In 2009, he was also inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, TN.
Today, Billy Cox owns a video production company. He has produced numerous blues and a myriad of gospel shows. He co-authored the books, Jimi Hendrix Sessions and Ultimate Hendrix with John McDermott and Eddie Kramer. Billy has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors among which: In 2009 Billy Cox was inducted into The Musicians Hall Of Fame; Billy received The Founders Award in 2010. It was given by Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen and in 2011 Billy was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall Of Fame. Billy released Old School Blue Blues, in 2011 and continues to tour with “The Experience Hendrix Tour” each year and his own Band of Gypsys Experience. He released the single Run featuring the androgynous singer and songwriter Marlon Alarm in November 2011 and his latest release “Unfiltered” came out in late 2014.
- Nitro Function, 1971
- Last Gypsy Standing, 2009
- Old School Blue Blues, 2011
- Unfiltered, 2014
- Them Changes, Buddy Miles, 1970
- Charlie Daniels, Charlie Daniels, 1971
- 5, J.J. Cale, 1979
- Veranda, Christine Lakeland, 1984
- Midnight Daydream, Bruce Cameron, 1997
- The Deep End, Volume 2, Gov’t Mule, 2002
- Odd, Kaoll, 2014
Gypsy Sun and Rainbows
- Woodstock, 1994
- Live at Woodstock, 1999
Band of Gypsys
- Band of Gypsys, Jimi Hendrix, 1970
- Band of Gypsys 2, Jimi Hendrix, 1986
- Stone Free: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix, Various Artists, Band of Gypsys, 1993
- Live at the Fillmore East, 1999
- The Band of Gypsys Return, Buddy Miles & Billy Cox, 2006
The Jimi Hendrix New Experience a.k.a. Cry of Love band
- The Cry of Love, 1971
- Isle of Wight, 1971
- Voodoo Soup, 1995
- First Rays of the New Rising Sun, 1997
- Blue Wild Angel: Live at the Isle of Wight, 2002
- Live at Berkeley, 2003
- Live at the Isle of Fehmarn, 2005
- Rainbow Bridge, 1971
- Hendrix in the West, 1972
- War Heroes, 1972
- Loose Ends, 1974
- Crash Landing, 1975
- Midnight Lightning, 1975
- Nine to the Universe, 1980
- The Jimi Hendrix Concerts, 1982
- Blues, 1994
- South Saturn Delta, 1997
- Valleys of Neptune, 2010
- West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology, 2010
- People, Hell & Angels, 2013